Applications have been opened!
Deadline is June 7, 18:00(JST)

1 Program Background

Startups have become crucial entities in driving economic growth and addressing societal challenges through innovative business approaches. They play a significant role not only in the global market but also in promoting innovation within local communities.

In Hyogo and Kobe, we have been actively working on creating opportunities for entrepreneurs to gather, providing funding support, business growth support, and personnel development. Especially since being selected as J-Global Startup Cities in Kansai along with Osaka and Kyoto in July 2020 by the Japanese government, Hyogo and Kobe have been making continuous efforts to foster a diverse startup ecosystem capable of global competition and to promote the development and support of startups.

In addition, the urgent response to the escalating severity of climate change has become a global imperative. Recognizing this, Hyogo, in its revised “Hyogo Prefecture Climate Change Mitigation Plan”* issued in March 2022, emphasizes the crucial need to foster innovation for the implementation of technologies that enable sustainable growth, while also striving to generate cutting-edge innovations that contribute to achieving a decarbonized society.

Based on the aforementioned context, this program organized by Hyogo and Kobe aims to strengthen the startup ecosystem by supporting startups and innovative small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that are dedicated to pursuing the globally shared Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The program further focuses on facilitating the development, growth, and international expansion of system and product solutions that foster global social transformation.

Its primary objective is to foster innovation and promote the creation of startups that contribute to the advancement of cutting-edge products and solutions while strengthening the overall startup ecosystem.


2 Targeted Startups

We are looking for startups that are developing and commercializing products or services related to the following themes.

  • Themes
    Products or services that contribute to the SDGs**
    ** We plan to prioritize the selection of startups that are actively working on developing products or services in Climate tech, such as decarbonization and carbon neutrality.
  • Criteria
    • Startups that are developing and commercializing products or services related to the aforementioned themes. (Having a product prototype is the best.However, for R&D-oriented startups such as fusion and quantum computing, it is acceptable if a team has been formed.)
    • Startups that are implementing or planning global expansion, or plan to expand overseas in the medium to long term.
    • The founder, business manager, or other members capable of making decisions must be able to participate.
    • Able to participate in-person for the program held in Kobe (planning for 4 days total: 2 days for the Kick-off Session, and 2 days for the day before and the actual Demo Day).
    • Applications are accepted from across the nation.
      However, startups without a base(***) in Hyogo must establish a base in Hyogo during the program period (from July 18,2024 to January 31, 2025)
    (***) A base refers to a head office, branch, sales office, or co-working facility, etc. within Hyogo. Corporate registration in Hyogo is not required. For startups without a base in Hyogo at the time of application, please let us know individually. Furthermore, for startups selected for this program that newly contract as co-working members of “KiP”(a co-working facility operated by Hyogo), usage fees will be halved during the program period.

3 Program Outline

This program consists of “Business development support” and “Financial support for Global market expansion”
The outline is as follows.

I. Business development support

The business development support includes 3 components: Kick off session, Hands on coaching, and Demo Day & Post management.

【Kick off Session】
Day 1

■ Keynote Presentation
We will deliver a keynote focusing on open innovation.
■ Panel Discussion
We will host Entrepreneurs-in-Residence (EIRs) and industry experts to discuss “identifying opportunities for innovation & impact, showcasing successful SDG-oriented startups and their pathways to success, and sharing insights on effective strategies, initiatives, and best practices.
■ Networking
We will host networking events with companies in the Kansai region that are interested in open innovation.

Day 2

■ Business-Relevant Lectures
  • Entrepreneurs-in-Residence (EIRs) and partners from 2080 Ventures will deliver lectures on entrepreneurship mindset and go-to-market strategies essential for founders seeking global expansion and funding from international investors.
■ KPI Setup Meeting
  • Startups will participate in KPI sessions with designated EIRs to discuss their requirements and areas for improvement when entering new markets.
■ Founders’ Networking
  • We will organize networking sessions and group activities to foster connections and rapport among founders.
■ Team-Building Lunch
  • We will host a team-building lunch to facilitate deeper connections and rapport among fellow founders.

【Hands on Coaching】 
We will support business growth through 7 weeks of intensive mentoring.

■ Introduction and information dissemination through Hyogo and Kobe’s startup-related social media channels
  • We will host a team-building lunch to facilitate deeper connections and rapport among fellow founders.
■ 1:1 Sessions with 5 visiting mentors
  • We will organize individual sessions with 5 visiting mentors covering various topics such as specific regions (excluding North America and Europe) and providing deep industry insights in clean tech, climate tech, and biotech.
■ Specialized Lectures
  • A series of [7] special lectures will be delivered by both EIRs and visiting mentors, covering topics such as effective pitching, storytelling for pitching decks, sales techniques, data collection and management, tailored to the specific needs of our cohort.
■ Business Matching
  • EIRs will actively seek potential global clients, facilitating introductions for startups to pitch their products and services. They will coordinate introductory calls and assist in refining strategies for effective product delivery and sales targeting. (goal : 2 intro cases per startup)

【Demo Day & Post Management】 
We will host a Demo Day to facilitate business growth for startups and create opportunities for them to connect with VCs and potential markets for overseas expansion.

■ Demo Day prep. and eve party
  • During the preparation for Demo Day, Entrepreneurs-in-Residence (EIR) will visit Kobe for 5 days to work closely with startups. They will provide teaching and coaching on script delivery and deck design for the pitch.
  • On the day before the Demo Day, we are planning an eve party with the program participants, alumni, and related parties.
■ Connecting with Global Investors and Networks
  • We will share startups’ pitching presentations on social media and global networks. If anyone shows interest in connecting with them, we will gladly facilitate the introduction.

II. Financial support for Exploring Expansion into the Global Market

For the startups selected for this program, we will provide financial support of 300,000 yen (including tax) per startup to cover expenses for conducting overseas market research, proof-of-concept (PoC) projects, and participation in overseas startup support programs.

However, to confirm the specifics of the overseas market research and proof-of-concept projects, you will be required to submit an “Overseas Proof-of-Concept/Research Project Plan” (Attachment 1) during the Hands-on Coaching period (July to December), and the plan must be approved after an interview.

  • Eligible Expenses: Travel expenses for going overseas (airfare, visa acquisition fees, etc.), accommodation expenses overseas, outsourcing fees for overseas local partners/coordinators (interpretation, translation, research, etc.). Let us know if you want to know more in advance.

4 Language

As this is a support program aimed at global expansion, the primary language for activities and interactions will be English, and output such as pitch decks is recommended to be in English. We will provide follow-up support in Japanese as needed.

However, the Overseas PoC/Research Project Plan must be submitted in Japanese.

5 Number of companies to be selected

About 10 startups

6 Program Fee

Free of Charge.
However, travel and accommodation costs required for participating in programs that demand on-site participation, such as the Kick-off Session and Demo Day, will be borne by the participants themselves.

7 Venue

The venues for implementation are as follows. However, there is a possibility of changes or additions.

  • Kick-off Session
    SMBC KOBE headquarter building 2F, Naniwa-cho 56, Chuou-ku, Kobe, Hyogo

    15F, Hankyu Sannomiya Bldg., 4-2-1 Kanou-cho, Chuo-ku, Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture
  • Hands-On Coaching
    To be conducted online via ZOOM, etc.
  • Demo Day
    Scheduled to be held within Kobe

8 Program Schedule

Business Development Support

  • Kick-off session
    Thursday, July 18 – Friday, July 19
    >* On-site (in Kobe) participation is a requirement.
  • Hands on Coaching
    -Tailored mentoring
    Fourth week of July 2024 – First week of September 2024
    7 weekly online sessions with the assigned mentor
     -1:1 Sessions with 5 visiting mentors
    Fourth week of July 2024 – End of the September 2024
     Individual online consultations with visiting mentors
     -Specialized Lectures
    streaming and all archived videos can be viewed during the program period
     -Business Matching
    July – December, 2024
  • Demo Day
    Between December 2024 and early February 2025, for 2 days
    *Detailed schedule is being coordinated
    **On-site participation is required

Financial support for Exploring Expansion into the Global Market

  • September, 2024 – end of the January, 2025

9 How to apply & Application Period

Applications opened on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. The deadline to apply is 18:00 (JST), Friday, June 7, 2024.
If you want to apply, please submit your application online as soon as possible from the following website.
* Regarding required information to apply, please refer to the Appendix-1.

10 Screening Method and Selection Criteria

Applicants will be screened through document screening and interviews on a rolling basis. The results of the evaluation will be communicated via email.

  • First round: Document Screening
    English or Japanese
  • Second round: Online Interview
    Pitching and Q&A session. Pitching must be delivered in English

【Adoption Criteria】

  • Have engaged in concrete business development / R&D development aimed at commercialization (not at a purely conceptual idea level).
  • There is excellent compatibility between the founders/team and the business.
  • Have clear challenges, customers, business goals and vision to address, and have an operational policy that aligns with solving the common social issues based on the application theme (SDGs).
  • Whose business activities are expected to impact the regional economy of Hyogo/Kobe positively and can serve as a catalyst for change in the market as a whole.
  • The founder or business manager can participate in the program with a sense of initiative, engaging in interactions and mutual learning with participating entrepreneurs and mentors.
  • Can participate in the programs that require on-site attendance.
  • Have the intention to actively participate and contribute to the Hyogo/Kobe startup community, including SDGsCHALLENGE.

11 Notification of Acceptance

The results of the selection will be notified via email.
Please note that in the case of non-selection, we will not disclose the reasons for the decision.
All selected teams will be announced on our web site:

12 Requests for cooperation in surveys and follow-up

We will ask all applicants to cooperate in surveys and hearings to improve our SDGs CHALLENGE program.

13 Other Notes

  • We will implement this program at KiP. When you join the program and use our facilities, please comply with the facilities’ terms and conditions of use. The proposer has intellectual property rights to the business plan and other information.
  • However, the proposer is responsible for taking measures to legally protect information such as patents, utility models, trade secrets, and know-how and is requested to submit proposals to the extent that it is acceptable to make them public.
  • The contents of the submitted documents, including personal information, will be shared with Hyogo, Kobe, and the contracted operators, Community Link the NPO and 2080 Ventures. The information will also be shared and used to the extent necessary for this program’s cooperating and sponsoring organizations.
  • The submitted personal information will not be used for any other purpose or provided to any third party, except for related parties unless otherwise stipulated by law or agreed to by the applicant.
  • Suppose we find any misrepresentation or failure to meet the requirements after the qualified or launched program. In that case, the applicant will be disqualified or asked to withdraw from the program during the program.

14 Contact

If you have any questions, please contact to the contracted operators, Community Link the NPO via email :


This program is operated by CommunityLink commissioned by Hyogo Prefecture and Kobe City.

Such programs and services are provided for educational and informational purposes only and under no circumstances should any content provided as part of any such program, services or events be construed as investment, legal, tax or accounting advice by us or any of its affiliates.

This post is intended solely to provide information regarding the stated program. All content provided in this post is provided for general informational or educational purposes only.

We make no representations as to the accuracy or information contained in this post and while we have taken reasonable steps to ensure that the information contained in this post is accurate and up-to-date, no liability can be accepted for any error or omissions.